Business Travel – What is Your Return on Investment?

One year I was over in Asia on business with a group. As usual, seminars were held in different cities in order to promote new products and sales. Eight out of 10 members of the group would give a presentation. After one of these seminars, a customer, who flew in just to attend the event, shared his thoughts in private: “I can do all that talk alone and better.” Pretty blunt, but the message was loud and clear.

At this moment, you may be waiting at an airport lounge for your flight, flying across the Pacific or the Atlantic, sitting in your hotel room half way across the world, or are ready for your next trip. As you read this, why not make use of this time to ponder these questions: Do you really need all that business travel? Is it absolutely necessary? I mean, what is the return on investment of your trip (forget about the air mileage you could accumulate, although it is your personal ROI)? Have you ever measured it?

Very often, we tend to do things just because we have always done them and they have become our routine. We do them again and again without putting much thoughts into what we do. We travel because we have budgeted to travel, and we believe it does good to our businesses. We believe it helps with market development, sales, and after-sale support and services etc.. But none of these should become the rationale for business travel unless we have specific objectives, detailed plans to help reach those objectives efficiently and effectively, and finally results that are measurable.

So when planning your next business trip, consider the following:

· Ask yourself the question I asked earlier: Is this travel absolutely necessary?

· If you could reach your objectives through other means instead, and with better results, then the answer is no, and you should kill that travel plan altogether.

· If no other means can replace your presence in person, the answer is yes, then be very clear about the objectives. Start making a detailed plan to help reach those objectives.

· Make your travel most efficiently and effectively, e.g., if part of the work could be done in alternative ways, focus your travel only on the things that require in-person presence and attention.

· Get the right people on the trip. If a couple of people could do the job, why bring eight or 10?

· Not everyone has to give a presentation just because a seminar is held. A seminar is not a lecture. In fact, where applicable, no presentation is necessary if a seminar leader has prepared participants for the occasion well enough in advance.

· If you give a handout to every attendee prior to or at the start of the seminar, what’s the point of you standing in front reading out exactly what your audience are busy reading themselves? Get their attention or leave them alone. Don’t disturb them.

· If the handout is already bilingual or is a translated version, what’s the point of having an interpreter translating word by word what’s already on the printout?

· Why would you show one slide after another when the attention of your audience is fixed on their handouts? And what’s the point of showing slides with 70 words crammed into each when it is hardly legible from a distance?

· Can you forgo your PowerPoint or at least limit the use of it? Use it only to enhance rather than spoil your event.

· Develop a way to measure the results of your trip. Only the output, not the input, will tell you how effective your work is and where you can improve next time.

Business travel is costly, particularly international travel: a few thousand dollars for each round trip, adding another few thousand dollar hotel bills, expensive overseas roaming calls, and not to mention physical fatigue from jet lag and sacrifice of family life. If you do decide to travel, you’ve got to make sure your investment not only gets you the maximum return, but also that of those you visit, you meet or invite to spend time with you. Otherwise, stay home and save everybody’s time and money.

© 2010 Jacqueline Wu